England 13-10 Ireland: Lessons Learned from Six Nations Clash
England edged a brutal encounter at Twickenham to throw the Six Nations wide-open.
No one can win the Grand Slam now, but there are four sides locked on four points apiece as we head into the last two rounds of matches.
A tight affair at England’s HQ saw some bone-jarring defence and polished attacking play from both sides produce a gripping contest.
Here’s what we learned.
1. England Wasteful and Clinical
It looked as though England’s ability to butcher golden chances had come back to haunt them early in the contest when Jonny May somehow contrived to knock the ball on in the act of scoring.
But they found their clinical edge with a great break from Mike Brown that created Danny Care’s match-winning try.
In a game that provided little by the way of chances, thanks to some brutal defence, May will be thanking his lucky stars England took the only other chance that came their way.
2. Farrell Needs to Watch His Step
For two matches in a row, Owen Farrell has made needless shoves and late tackles on the opposition.
He was fortunate not to receive a yellow card for the late hit on Conor Murray in the first half.
His performance with the ball was excellent, and he plays with an assured, cool head, but those flashpoint moments that have pockmarked his career so far could come back to bite him one day.
3. Schmidt’s Tool Kit Was on Show
Against Wales we saw Ireland execute a very simple game plan to the letter and demolish a poor Welsh side. This week, Joe Schmidt unveiled a more varied game plan.
The driving maul from the lineout was used less often as they went wide earlier to stretch England’s defence, and there was plenty more of the signature Leinster style with wrap-arounds from Jonny Sexton and a wonderful performance from Rob Kearney at full-back.
Schmidt is building a team with a number of weapons. Saturday they simply came up against a side whose defence was outstanding.
4. England Maturing Nicely
Stuart Lancaster’s side took a large step towards coming of age with this performance.
They proved themselves able to soak up a huge amount of pressure with bruising defence, and when the chance came to relieve that pressure, they exited their territory safely.
Coming through a tight match like this will give them a great confidence boost as they build towards the 2015 World Cup.